Year after year the state of education in the UK seems to be measured by academic scores and a set of results in which schools, colleges and universities judge themselves on. However much evidence suggests young people continue to be judged on academic performance with less focus on their mental health and wellbeing and nurturing the development of their emotional intelligence. English, Maths and other academic achievements are still seen as the key markers of success, yet since and before the Covid-19 pandemic we know young people have faced unparalleled pressures in their personal lives, with many aspects contributing to mental health issues including anxiety, depression, self harm and eating disorders.
We desire every child to have an easy ride through their education, yet many young people struggle with mainstream education due to many contributing factors. Looking at alternative provision in the form of a pupil referral unit (PRU) designed to support young people continue education while their complex needs are addressed.
It’s estimated that around 17,000 young people are currently educated in PRUs, the majority are 11-16 however some see them providing a long term solution for primary school children which is counter progressive as PRU’s were designed for secondary school aged young people. Students remain in PRU's for too long with poor academic progress, many PRU’S are not providing the support suggested on the EHCP. where students require 1:1 support yet they are stuck in a class with 5-8 students to just 2 members of staff.
In PRUs there is a greater proportion of black pupils than in mainstream schools, as the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has highlighted, and the schools to prison pipeline is something that is getting worse and having an adverse effect on young black people having contact with the CJS adding to the rising scurge in serious youth violence, knife crime and county lines.
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In 2019 the government announcement that the management contract for the first UK “secure school” has been awarded to the Oasis Charity Trust, reportedly this is a charity which, according to the government, runs academies in the UK’s most socio-economically deprived and “diverse” areas, most of which were rated as failing by Ofsted at the point of being taken over.
The policy of merly rebranding youth institutions as “secure schools” has raised eyebrows and allows for the public and campaign groups to quite rightly question if this isn't plainly some form of camouflage disguise for what in essence marks the start of the biggest youth estate expansion in the UK CJS since the Gladstone committees report in 1895.
So it's fair to say that the state of education in the UK needs to be measured by a mix of many metrics not just academic results and league tables to ensure we are offering all of our young people a fair chance, its well known education is away up the social mobility ladder and increases life chances, enhancing the development of all.
The student experience seems to vary and depending on the institution, diversity and representation within the workforce which needs to be looked at, it's felt universally that every child deserves the best we can offer through their educational years as a child.